Microsoft Windows is Adware

Published: 2022-11-19
Last Updated: 2023-03-18

Microsoft Windows has devolved into an advertising platform and has been for quite some time. The company has resorted to dark patterns, invasive data collection, and baking advertisements right into the Windows Home, Pro, and Enterprise operating systems. Despite the fact that the OS was purchased either directly or part of the cost of the machine, Microsoft uses Windows as a billboard to shovel advertisements onto people to make an extra buck. Windows is Adware.

Users are force-fed ads for Microsoft-specific products right into various elements of the operating system. For example, ads for Microsoft Edge will appear in both the start menu and even the lockscreen. I've even had the experience of disabling Edge (which in itself difficult to do by the way) only to have it not only reenabled after a system update, but having it now become my default browser along with several other default programs reset to Microsoft-owned programs. Advertisements for other Microsoft services like Microsoft Editor and OneDrive are inserted right into the file manager.

When using the start menu, "suggestions" appear for more adware and crapware like CandyCrush, Words With Friends, and Drawboard. Even if you're an Windows Enterprise user, you'll still get pitched for stuff like Microsoft's reward program in the start menu.

An installation of Windows Home edition comes preloaded with garbage like TikTok, Facebook, Disney Plus, etc (look at what apps Microsoft decides to "Pin" to the start menu in Windows 11). These preinstalled applications are not there because Microsoft is trying to be helpful. They are there because they have partnerships with these companies and receive financial kickbacks, much like smartphone OEM's have partnerships with Facebook, Netflix, etc to preinstall their software bloat onto brand new devices. It seems like just about everything related to technology, even products we pay for, have become advertisement delivery systems.

During the installation process, Microsoft has begun forcing users to create a Microsoft account. This is an incredibly obnoxious and it's very likely due to the fact accounts are in fact also advertising profiles (aka "advertising ID"). This can sometimes be avoided by not connecting to WiFi during installation. This coercive method to generate new account creations likely increases some arbitrary metric that some Microsoft exec decided would be good so he or she can bring it up during a performance review. New Microsoft accounts = new advertising IDs = more advertising revenue.

By default all telemetry is enabled. Even if you take the time to disable all the telemetry that Microsoft allows the user to disable, they do not allow you to disable it all. Windows machines will continue to stream encrypted data back to Microsoft and you are not allowed to look at the contents. You have no idea what that data consists of - you just have to trust them that they aren't stealing your photos, contacts, documents, videos, etc. They probably aren't, but since they won't let you see exactly what data they're collecting, you cannot say with 100% certainty.

True, a user can uninstall pre-installed applications, use workarounds to avoid creating a Microsoft account, and disable most telemetry (and all if the user really takes the time to learn how to circumvent all of it by altering the machines registry). However Microsoft, as with other Big Tech companies, know the power of defaults. The truth is that 99% of all users are your basic non-technical consumers (ie "normies") that will never take the time to uninstall privacy invasive bloatware nor change the default settings.

This isn't to say that an operating system produced by Apple isn't without it's flaws, because they can be accused of similar practices perhaps to maybe a slightly lesser extent. They are very much guilty of forcing users into their walled garden ecosystem which is something Microsoft appears to be trying to replicate.

The job of an operating system should simply be to help the user open files and programs. Anything beyond that is bloat. You'd quite literally have to pay me to use Windows, which is unfortunately often the case to work in many business settings.

Update 2022-12-11:
Yesterday I installed Windows 10 on bare metal with an extra SSD I have because I have a project coming up that likely requires me to use Windows. One of the first new obnoxious things I noticed was that the search box in the taskbar had a colorful gift icon inside it. Clicking on it brings up a series of links to holiday-themed advertisements like "Top 10 Tech Gifts This Holiday Season". Mind you, I provided zero information to Microsoft and hadn't even opened a web browser. During the installation process, I made certain the machine wasn't connected to the internet to avoid being strong-armed into creating a Microsoft account. I also disabled as much telemetry as I could before even connecting it to the internet. This was not a developer or beta release, this was the latest version of the Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft's website. Microsoft is an ad-tech company. I also stumbled across this post from Neowin on HN about some upcoming "not-so-great" features coming to Windows 11.

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